Cathey's Creek Baptist Church



Submitted by Debbie Cope

The Cathey’s Creek community was one of the earliest settlements on the upper French Broad River. Established with the early development of this community was the Cathey's Creek Missionary Baptist Church, which came to be known (and rightfully so) as the “Mother of Baptist Churches” in Transylvania County.

Most of the early records of the church have been lost, but from the few records that have survived to the present time, the date of the founding of this church had been set at 1813. Alsa F. Gavin in his book, BEGINNINGS: A HISTORY OF THE FOUNDING OF BAPTIST CHURCHES IN TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY, 1795-1865 indicates that the founding date is probably sometime between 1783 and 1800. There is a record of the church's application for membership in the Bethel Association of South Carolina in 1800.

The first definite records of this church are found in associational records of South Carolina in books written about South Carolina Baptists. There was no association of churches in this part of North Carolina at that time, so the Cathey's Creek congregation linked themselves in fellowship and service with their brethren to the south. The Bethel Association, at the turn of the century, grew so large that the leaders decided to split. Two additional associations were formed out of this association; the Broad River Association and the Saluda Association. In 1803, Cathey's Creek became a charter member of the Saluda Association. At this time, there were thirty-nine members of the church. Their pastor was the Reverend Emantha Davis.

Records show that in 1806, serious irregularities in the discipline of the membership had developed in the church. The records of the Association state that at the time of the irregularities and investigation there were twenty members of the church and that its pastor was the Reverend James Chastine. In 1809, the Saluda Association withdrew fellowship from the Cathey's Creek church. From 1809 until 1813, when it was re-organized, the church was pastorless. At the time of re-organization in 1813, the following were members: Robert Jordon, Mary King, Nancy Patterson, Phebe Johnson, Samuel Johnson, Peggy Johnson, Johnson Crow and Absalom Hooper. Elder Benjamine King, pastor during these trying years from 1813 to 1822, more than any other person, was responsible for keeping the church on the road to becoming the “Mother of Baptist Churches” in Transylvania County.

Very little is known about the first building that housed this church other than that it was constructed of logs and that it was located near the present site. By 1820, the church had grown to thirty-seven members, but during that year the original church and most of the church records were destroyed by fire. The members decided unanimously to rebuild. By this time more than half of the membership had moved into the Gloucester Township and desired the new church to be located there.

Another problem concerning doctrine arose about this time and it seemed that the church could not exist without a constant state of uncertainty and crisis. Twenty Gloucesterites petitioned for dismissal so they could establish a church in Gloucester and with the granting of this request the first branch of the “Mother Church,” the New Prospect Church, was established.

The French Broad Associational records show that the Cathey's Creek church was associated with the French Broad Association from 1813 to 1820. Between 1820 and 1841, Cathey’s Creek was a member in full fellowship with the Twelve-Mile Association. The church was a member of the Salem Association from 1841 to 1848.

After the original church burned in 1820, another structure was built within a year, but by 1830 the church had grown so that the new building was found to have inadequate space. The membership proceeded to erect another sanctuary. This church building was the first frame building in Transylvania County. Benjamin Wilson, who owned the first sawmill in the area, cut the timber for its construction.

During the 1840'settlers were spreading over Hogback, Gloucester, and Eastatoe Townships. Each new settlement separated members farther from their church and made them determined to build a church in their community. This was necessary because church policy of the Cathey's Creek church required disciplinary measures be taken by the church against any adult who absented himself from church services for more than one successive Sunday. Each separating group sought dismissal from the church and organized a new congregation. One mission that was founded in the east fork of the French Broad River in the Eastatoe Township became the East Fork Baptist Church; another, formed in Gloucester, became the Macedonia Baptist Church.

As were all churches in the area, Cathey's Creek was plunged into an almost chaotic state during the late 1850's because of the slavery issue. Pastors contributed to the confusion by siding with one side or the other, and the church found it difficult to keep a pastor and was forced to secure interim pastors from other denominations.

Prior to the Civil War, Negros were members of the Cathey's Creek Church. These members were encouraged to participate in the church activities. Twenty-five of the black members moved out at the end of the war and established the Bethel Baptist Church. The influence of the Cathey's Creek church was reaching out across the county.

The frame building built in 1830 was accidently burned in 1887, and soon afterwards another church was built on the same spot. This new building was not completed until the belfry was added in 1926. Improvements were made as the need arose: June, 1924, a runner for the aisle and a speakers stand were bought; October, 1924, coal oil lamps were bought so that night services could be held; 1926, a road was built though the swamp to the church; the ladies of the church under the leadership of Mrs. Joe “Aunt Nan” Dun, bought a bell to call the members to service; in 1927 the church was painted, total cost - $75.00; 1936, the church was wired for electricity, cost $28.12; 1937, the coal oil lamps were sold for $2.00 and this amount was applied to the electric bill; November 1937, James Garren bought the winter's supply of coal; the church bought a new heater; 1937, the first Vacation Bible School was held. Miss Irene Dixon was the principal, Gladys Trimmer and Nell Lance were teachers; 1943, the pump organ was replaced with a piano, the heating system was changed from coal to gas; 1953, the ceiling of the church auditorium was replaced and new light fixtures added; 1953, the foundation of Sundays School rooms had rotted and these were replaced with concrete.

On the night of July 16, 1960, a group of church men met with the pastor, the Reverend H.H. Mann, and a decision to build a new church building was made. There was no money for such an undertaking, but the need was great and the people determined. Fund raising was started. A tobacco allotment, belonging to Clarence Whitmire, was harvested for three seasons by church members. The money realized from those sales gave a substantial boost to the slow growing funds. Bake sales and harvest suppers were held. These, along with the many personal sacrifices made by the members kept the fund growing.

When the Reverend B.N. Rogers was called as pastor in June, 1961, the congregation found a new leader who supervised, urged, and encouraged the fund raising and building planning until his death in August 1966. The pulpit furniture in the new church building is dedicated to his memory.

In January, 1964, an eleven tract acre of land adjoining the church property was put on the market for $3,000.00. For practical purposes, the membership decided to buy the land, delaying the actual construction of the new building a few more months. It is on this site that the new church building was erected.

The Reverend Thomas P. Owen was called as pastor in October, 1966. It was under his leadership that the construction of the building was accomplished. The anxious members started moving Christmas Day, 1967, into the new building. A prayer meeting was held in the new church building on December 27, 1967, marking the first congregational gathering in the newly finished sanctuary. Dedication Day was held on May 5, 1968. Mr. Alsa F. Gavin was the main speaker, giving the history of the church.

Homecoming Day, September 12, 1971, was a memorable occasion. A note-burning ceremony was held. Eleven years and two months from the date that the first tentative plans for a new and much needed “church house” was made by those “dedicated men,” the church building was not only a reality, but also debt free. At this time, the Reverend K.E. Bragg was pastor, having succeeded the Reverend Owen who resigned in February, 1970.

Under the leadership of the Reverend Mr. Bragg, some changes of note have taken place. A Missionary Conference was held in January, 1971, resulting in the membership pledging to help support ten independent missionary couples on foreign fields. The following January, nine more were added. Two buses were bought in August, 1972. Their first run, September 3, brought fourteen boys and girls to Sundays School.

The building is new, along with its furnishings, yet each Sunday morning the old timers hear a nostalgic sound, the ringing of the bell, the same bell that has called so many to worship since early 1926.

Cathey's Creek Church has a proud history. Yet the church looks to the future to a greater challenge and service for her Lord.














Share this